Writerly Life

Happy Mother’s Day

always an adventure with mom

I am my Mother’s daughter.

I have never been ashamed of that.

In my writing I hear her writer’s voice sneaking in; when I read to my students I hear her inflection and her care in preserving character’s voices/personas. Daily I am amazed at the ways we are similar. Sometimes when I say things to my students I hear my Mother’s voice, and it’s in those moments that I know I am getting it right.

The first text she ever sent me (see two weeks ago) was, “There’s a little girl throwing stones in the creek with her red galoshes and her Mom. Ahh wanna go back in time?”

And last week I posted on her facebook wall, “Mom, tonight I think I need to snuggle up on your bed while you grade papers; let’s go back, just for tonight.”

I love my Mom. Lots. Always have. That weird teenage stage where girls hate their mom? Not here, never.

Of all the lessons I learned from my Mother, the one that sits closest to my heart is relationship. She taught me at an early age the value of being present with people, learning their stories, and walking with them as they grow. There is nothing I love more than to journey with people, investing my heart and my time.

I’ve watched my Mother invest in her students and in her friendships for the past twenty-six years of my life. She’s the best teacher I’ve ever seen, and if my teaching or my classroom feels different than others, it’s only because I’ve learned from her how to encourage and push at the same time.

When we generate ideas for writing poetry we often write lists. Here’s my Mother’s Day generating list for you.

Ten things I’m thankful my Mom taught me.

  1. Don’t be afraid to be a kid.
  2. Being distracted is sometimes really important.
  3. Don’t freak out in stressful situations.
  4. Drink tea to help you focus.
  5. Give specific feedback on writing and relationship.
  6. Go outside.
  7. Just because you’ve never done it, doesn’t mean you can’t.
  8. Set goals. Achieve Goals. Repeat.
  9. Forgive, forgive, forgive.
  10. There is a big God out there, who does big things; pay attention.
Writerly Life

Happy Birthday Siena

New friends of mine had a baby tonight. When I say new friends, I want you to know that these are not the new kind of friends you move on from. No, these are the kind of friends you meet and wonder where they have been your whole life. These are the kind of friends that remind you that God is good and big and that he brings all things/people together in perfect timing.

So join me in welcoming little Siena girl to the world tonight. As I write this she is only twenty minutes old and I am getting text updates from a friend who is in the hospital waiting room in New York. The last update was “she came out chubby, that’s all we know.” And then I started to cry, right here in Starbucks.

My very next thought was how I wanted to hold her and how I really wanted to read to her, Mr.Brown Can Moo, Can You? Literacy, it runs in my veins.

I recently spent time with Liana, the child of another friend of mine, she is only a year old, but her first word was book. In fact when her mom took a book out of the bag her eyes lit up. Liana’s amazing mother told me that when she reads Hop on Pop to Liana, she’ll say “hop, hop” in her little Liana voice with inflection and excitement— just like her mom does as she reads. Insert melting heart here.

Then there is Jerus, he’s a pretty perfect gentleman that I’ve had the joy of watching grow over the past six years. I’ve spent plenty of time reading to him and doing all the voices. In fact when he was a baby and he would cry I used to just quote lines from Snuggle Puppy and he would stop crying to hear the familiar words. Last week I had the pleasure of listening to him read Little Bear to me. I practically had tears in my eyes as he read the first sentence to me; I was so proud of him.

I love the rich legacy of literacy that we pass on to our children. Some of my favorite memories of growing up involve reading books in bed with my Mom. On dark nights with a full moon, I can still hear my mom’s voice in my head reading aloud from Owl Moon.

In my classroom, I’ve recently been spending some time reading Bronx Masquerade to my kids. They’re fourteen. They don’t need to be read to. However, there is something about the sharing of written words that brings us together. I live for these moments; when I am not their teacher but the reader of a story that we journey through together.

To the Beautiful, Amazing Siena: Happy Birthday; I can’t wait to watch your eyes get wide as you hear the rhythms that written words bring to your ears; I can’t wait to hear you sound out your first words; I can’t wait to journey with you and discover all over again the mystery of written words.


Writerly Life

What I’m Really Trying to Say . . .

I just spent an hour looking at the last days of the year; this happy teacher almost cried. It’s a good thing I have friends that understand me; my loving neighbor Courtney just reminded me I have the perfect amount of time. She knows the routine this time of year; she’s even seen the actual tears that come the week after the last days of school. Feel free to laugh at me; I recognize the strangeness of that last sentence.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m itching for summer and days without alarm clocks. I know the importance of summer and the refreshment it brings to my teaching. However, there is something in me around this time of year that doesn’t want to leave.

I fall in love with the kids in my classroom and the relationships we build. And for as much as I hate planning lessons and spending what seems like every free moment of my time reading journals— I miss it.

And so as I carefully plan these last 38 days of school I’m asking myself the questions I ask so often when I conference with my writers, “What’s really important here?” and “That matters because . . .” and “So what you’re really trying to say is . . . “

Here is my list of what matters in these last days of school.

  1. Celebrating their writing
  2. Treasuring language that moves us
  3. Recognizing and Pushing through difficult writing/reading

I’ll let you know how my mini-lessons go . . .

Writerly Life

When the Bloodthirsty Attack

Below is a section of writing from one of the blogs I read: Eblogger Jason at Heartist

“I’m concerned with hidden love these days. I think we underestimate how many people are getting railed by critics out there. We assume that they know they’re loved and appreciated, but do they? I tend to think that the scoreboard is really lopsided in favor of the critics.

Bloodthirsty – 9

Friends – 1

We have to put some points on the board. If we lose at this level, we lose at every level.”

I have to agree with Jason. A goal of mine this year has been to speak these truths to the people in my life. All too often I’ve heard students say, “I’m just no good at this,” and thought in my head wow, you couldn’t be more wrong. All too often a friend has expressed their guilt at letting people down or not being able to do anything right, and again in my head, wow, you couldn’t be more wrong.

So I purpose to make sure people in my life know they’re loved an appreciated. I’m not very good at doing this in person and on the spot, when I do remember to say things this way it often feels awkward and forced. I’m so thankful for written words in times like these.

My student’s journals have been one safe place for me to practice my affirming techniques. I’ve found that the more you tell them they are good at something (and name it specifically) the more they believe it, the more their self-confidence grows, the better they become as a writers.

I am learning; it’s not just students that need this kind of affirmation. We all do. Because when the bloodthirsty attack and believe me, they will. It’s the words of trusted friends that will get you through.

So go ahead my blog reading friends, let people know with words that what they are doing is good.

Professional Writerly Life

Curriculum Writing

I am writing this at 7am, just before I rush my kids to the babysitter race into school, with a rejuvenated spirit and a positive outlook on kids writing.  Why?  Because of the day I spent with an amazing team of teachers writing curriculum…Spending 8 hours in a windowless conference room could be miserable, but surrounding yourself with teachers who have a passion to help all kids grow into writers with their own voice made the sun shine into that dull room. 

Writing curriculum is hard…The time spent on revising sentences so that they express exactly what we intended, the consideration of our audience, brainstorming for the right word.  We were entrenched in the same experience we want for our students, and we want their results to feel as good as ours do to us.

Writing curriculum is hard…That is why it is so crucial that we do it, and why I am so thankful to have such talented people to work with.  If you have a passion for teaching writing, share it, it will grow…maybe into some great curriculum…

Professional Writerly Life

stopping to pause

I took a sick day today; it takes a lot to get to me to the point where I recognize that staying home is a better option than staying with my kids. Needless to say, other than dragging my lifeless body to the doctor to pick up my yearly prescription for a Z-Pack, I did little else today.

While I was waiting in the doctor’s office I picked up Ralph Fletcher’s new book, Pyrotechnics on the Page, and attempted to break through the fever that was plaguing me, long enough to focus on the book. I didn’t get very far but I did come across this quote,

Like a sly crow who stashed tidbits in his nest, I pay homage to these writers by copying their words into my notebook. In this regard, my notebook becomes a pit stop where I can refuel and replenish my energy.

I love that Ralph Feltcher, children’s book author and word-man extraordinaire, admits to writing other’s words in his notebook. While I encourage my students to do this in the classroom, I don’t do it enough on my own. That is I don’t stop when I’m reading a good novel and copy down words I love into my journal. Thanks to Ralph Fletcher I’ve moved my journal and placed it right next to my Kindle in hopes that I’ll be more inclined to capture writing I love.

To loving words and how they move and speak in our lives; to stopping to pause to stash them away.